The Islamic State (IS) slaughtered American journalist James Wright Foley, whom many remember for his fantastic contributions to the media. But there is one aspect of Foley’s life outlets allow to be overshadowed: Foley relied on his Catholic faith, especially the Rosary, when Qaddafi’s forces kidnapped him in Libya in 2011.
Foley attended Marquette University, a Catholic university in Milwaukee, WI. After Libyan forces released him, Foley penned a letter to Marquette to explain why the university was always a friend to him, but specifically in captivity. He told his colleague Clare his mother “had a strong faith” and this would allow her to know what happened to him. From Marquette:
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.
After eighteen days, the regime allowed prisoners to call home. Foley talked to his mother, and she said friends and family prayed for him. Marquette even held a prayer vigil for him. She asked him if he could feel their prayers. He answered yes. From Marquette:
“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.
On his last day in Tripoli he viewed the speech Tom Durkin, one of the friends Foley’s mother mentioned, contributed at Foley’s vigil. From Marquette (emphasis added):
To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.
Foley’s parents also relied on their Catholic faith after he disappeared in Syria on Thanksgiving Day in 2012.
“Faith has been part of family life, but this has deepened my faith because there is our hope. Our hope is that God will take care of Jim,” she said.
Father Paul Gousse, the priest at the Foleys’ home parish, visited the family Tuesday. He did not speak to reporters, but the church asked people to respect the Foleys’ privacy in this difficult time. Diane and John, Foley’s father, addressed the media on Tuesday. John said Foley “is in God’s hands” and everyone knows “he’s in heaven.”
Diane left this message on Facebook:
We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.
We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.
A vigil for Foley is scheduled at Marquette for August 26 at 6:00 p.m. The university released a statement as well.
“The Marquette community is deeply saddened by the death of alumnus and freelance journalist James Foley, Arts ’96,” the university said. “We extend our heartfelt prayers and wishes for healing to James’ family and friends during this very difficult time. James, who majored in history at Marquette, had a heart for social justice and used his immense talents to tell the difficult stories in the hopes that they might make a difference in the world – a measure of his character for which we could not be prouder.”